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Indian police arrest 13 men in gang rape of woman for having a 'forbidden relationship'

Indian police have arrested 13 men who allegedly gang raped a woman after finding her guilty of having a boyfriend from a different village. The case follows a toughening of laws in India in rape cases.

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India council 'ordered' rape

Police from India's West Bengal state confirmed on Thursday that 13 men had been jailed after allegedly raping a 20-year-old woman. The victim has been hospitalized in the state's Birbhum district, which lies roughly 200 kilometers (124 miles) northwest of Calcutta.

"We arrested all the 13 men, including the village chief who ordered the gang rape. The accused have been produced in court, which remanded them to jail custody," Birbhum's Superintendent of Police, C. Sudhakar, said.

A local village council had tried the young woman on suspicion of having a relationship with a man from a different village. The council then fined her 25,000 rupees ($400) after finding her guilty. Because she couldn't pay the fine - according to the victim's mother - the village elders ordered her rape as the punishment. The incident reportedly occurred on the night of January 20.

"The crime was committed by our own people. They tortured my daughter and dumped her home late at night," the victim's mother told the Times of India.

Village councils in parts of northern India known as "khap panchayats" continue to have influence illegally over the local justice system.

India's information minister, Manish Tewari, condemned the attack.

"In a democratic country, based upon the rule of law, no vigilantism can be permitted," Information Minister Manish Tewari said, according to news agency AFP.

Last year, the brutal gang rape of a 23-year-old female student in New Delhi and her subsequent death sparked public outcry over the treatment of women in India. The incident led to the implementation of harsher punishment for convicted rapists.

kms/tj (AFP, Reuters)

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